RING, WBA and WBC junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia told fans at a Tuesday press conference in Isla Verde Carolina, Puerto Rico that "Philadelphia might be my birthplace, but Puerto Rico is my blood."
"I am a Puerto Rican," said Garcia (27-0, 16 knockouts), a 25-year-old Philadelphia resident whose father and trainer, Angel Garcia, was born in Puerto Rico, as was his mother.
"I could have been born on the moon, but I'm still Puerto Rican. Even though I'm from Philly, that's not my heritage. It's important for me to reach out to my fans because I think Puerto Rican boxing needs this right now."
Garcia will make his debut on the island with a March 15 defense against Mauricio Herrera (20-3, 7 KOs) that will happen on on Showtime at the historic Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
"It means a lot to me. Everybody in the stands is going to be Puerto Rican. I've never had that before," said Garcia. "I think that Puerto Rico is going to accept me as its own after I win on March 15. Philadelphia might be my birthplace, but Puerto Rico is my blood."
In Herrera, 33, Garcia faces a winner of two straight fights who owns a unanimous decision victory over current WBO 140-pound belt holder Ruslan Provodnikov from January of 2011.
"I know this is a huge opportunity, and I'm going to take full advantage of it. To have a shot at Danny's belts has been a dream of mine for a long time," said Herrera. "Danny Garcia is an intelligent and tough fighter, but so am I. I'm coming to Puerto Rico, and I know there is a lot of pressure, but hopefully, they will support me too."
Garcia was last in the ring for a unanimous decision over Lucas Matthysse in the co-featured bout to Floyd Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez last September. Garcia is facing Herrera at a time when Puerto Rico has no native-born reigning titleholders.
"My wife and I are both Puerto Rican, and like it or not, Danny is Boricua. It's always been a dream of his to fight in Puerto Rico, so we're happy to see that coming to pass," said Angel Garcia. "March 15 is going to be like no other. Herrera has never fought a Puerto Rican and my son Danny is 100 percent Puerto Rican."
The Garcia-Herrera card also boasts a WBC heavyweight eliminator between 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder (30-0, 30 KOs) and veteran Malik Scott (36-1-1, 13 KOs). The Wilder-Scott bout will be the mandatory challenger to the winner of the Bermane Stiverne-Chris Arreola fight, which is for the title vacated by Vitali Klitschko.
On the Showtime Extreme telecast preceding the Garcia-Herrera/Wilder-Scott doubleheader, there will be a 130-pound rematch between Puerto Rico's Juan Manuel Lopez (33-3, 30 KOs) and fellow two-division titleholder Daniel Ponce de Leon (45-5, 35 KOs). In June of 2008, Ponce de Leon was stopped in the first round by Lopez, who took his WBO junior featherweight title.
A 33-year-old Mexican Olympian, Ponce de Leon is coming off of a unanimous decision victory over Joksan Hernandez in November after having been dethroned as WBC featherweight beltholder by ninth-round knockout loss to Abner Mares last May.
"I'm happy to be here in Puerto Rico. I've been training hard and I'm ready for this rematch," said Ponce de Leon. "It's been five years [since their last fight,] and I know that JuanMa is going to come in strong. He's a great fighter, but I'm coming in fully prepared for this fight."
Lopez, 30, of Puerto Rico, is 3-3 in his past six fights, being stopped in all of his losses. He was last in the ring for a fourth-round knockout loss to Mikey Garcia in June.
"I'm excited about this great opportunity. I have the people of Puerto Rico confident in me and their support means everything to me," said Lopez. "I'm prepared for this fight and I know that it's going to be a tough one. I'm going to give it my all."
Video / Bill Emes